This is Part 4 of 4.
“Crazy times over on the East side. Crazy times,” Officer Anthony shook his head as he poured himself a cup of Woba tea.
“East side is getting reckless, disorderly. Wouldn’t believe it. Those tech people think they can do whatever they like, I suppose.” Anthony gave a half laugh, and, bending over his tea, tilted his eyes upward, as if to see how he was going over.
The faces he saw were stony, the eyes narrowed. Except for Professor Sand, who was clasping his hands over his stomach, smiling indulgently.
“Take for instance that Mr. Ira over at Vinda. Don’t know if you’ve heard about that yet?” This time Anthony did look up fully, testing whether he’d struck the right chord.
“He’s a real firebrand, that guy,” he quickly immersed himself back in his Woba tea. “That whole incident will get cleared up, of course, but I’ll bet you that’s not the last you’ll hear from him!”
There was a silence that stretched uncomfortably enough to make Cooke begin fidgeting again.
“It’s not easy out there for Public Watch. And it’s only getting harder. That’s what I wanted to talk with you about, Mr. Gambino.” He licked his lips eagerly, pushing with all his weight to move the tone towards the high energy sales pitch he was aiming at.
“You probably know I’m running for a South side representative seat,” he hurried on. “And I could really use your endorsement, Mr. Gambino. You know, I’ve lived on the South side most of my life. Family’s there. Friends are there. And, you know, the Public Watch…it could really use some support over there. And helping the Public Watch would go a long way in helping the people there. You know the PW base there – you know it’s over forty years old? Forty years! You know how hard it is to get good people to work over there. But if we had…” he stopped himself, and leaned forward genially. “…If you had a brand new, state of the art facility—just think what that would do for your recruiting!”
He leaned back again, and shrugged casually. “I figure with my time here at Public Watch, that’s something I could persuade the South side district to rally some funds for. An improved PW presence – that’s something everyone would be happy about, a real win-win.”
Anthony paused, watching Gambino to try to discern how he was taking everything. Gambino stared back. He rubbed his fingers, his expression opaque.
Then, as if on a whim, Anthony leaned forward again with a lowered voice.
“You know Orange, the restaurant on the South side, right across the Fresca city line?”
“Sure,” Gambino nodded.
“I happen to know the owner there. Nice guy. Terrific. He says that, if I get elected, I can get a meal there, on him, any time I want…and anyone I mention. So…” Anthony smiled and he raised his eyebrows. “You’d have a good reason to come down to the South side more often,” he chuckled, leaning back again.
Gambino said nothing for a few moments, considering Anthony. Then he spoke in an artificially even voice, straining for a self-mastery which eluded him.
“You do realize the irony of all of this, I suppose?”
“This. This…whole campaign.”
Cooke, Sand, and Anthony watched Gambino intently, minds racing to anticipate what he was about to say.
“You’re running to bring order back to the South side, right? And decency, morals, traditional values, and safety. And justice for the poor? That’s your platform isn’t it?”
“Yes,” Anthony nodded.
Gambino shook his head, stunned at Anthony’s obstinance which would force him to enumerate his contradictions. He marveled at Anthony’s brashness, appearing now in a version which could only be made possible through deep, diligently rehearsed self-deception.
“You’re cheating on your wife. She’s left you, and taken your children with her. And you’re building your campaign on extortion and bribery, including the depriving of your future constituents. Your family is collapsing, your morals are collapsing, your job is collapsing, and your life is falling apart.” He paused, marveling at the ruins. “And you’re the man who’s going to save this city? Who’s gonna fix the South side?”
Anthony grunted angrily.
“You think that matters?” He shot back. “None of that matters. I’m not running on my personal life. I’m running for values. Ideals. Things that do matter. I know what the people need, because I listen to them. And I know what Public Watch needs. None of that has anything to do with my family, or some trumped up charges. You of all people can understand that! You’ve got to be able to see the big picture – that’s what I’m talking about.”
Gambino and Anthony frowned at each other, sharing the mutual emotions of misunderstanding and disappointment.
“You’re not getting my endorsement,” Gambino said, finally. “And if I lived on the South side, you wouldn’t be getting my vote. You’re on probation from PW, one month. Have a good day.”
Gambino got up abruptly, signaling for Cooke to pay for their table.
In the following hours, Professor Sand and Cooke commended Gambino. Cooke urged him to fire Anthony before word got out the papers. He was right. About two weeks later the story broke about Ira’s accusations, and the pressure mounted from there. Gambino fired Anthony later that week.
Two months later, Gambino was immersed in incident reports when Lucille’s panicked voice broke over his intercom.
“It’s Anthony! He pushed right past security and is coming upstairs to see you. I’m sorry, he…”
“Is he armed?”
“Armed? No…I don’t think…no.”
All the same, Gambino grabbed his flip-spear that he’d carried while on patrol. A minute later, Anthony, sweating and a little thicker than last he’d seen him, pressed his nose against the window of Gambino’s door, banging and glaring.
Gambino walked over slowly, and opened the door. Anthony tumbled in, unarmed, but in a rage.
“About the election, I suppose?” Gambino retreated to his chair and sat down wearily. He hadn’t heard, but had assumed, since firing Anthony, any odds he had of an upset would disappear.
“Robert Wilson,” Anthony spat. “Another term for that leeching, do-nothing, fat-cat.”
“I suppose you think it’s my fault?”
Anthony glared, frustrated by the nonchalance of the encounter.
“It’s fine.” Anthony lifted his head, abruptly switching tact. “You know what the problem really is? It’s Fresca. The people in this backwards dump don’t want to be helped. They’re not ready for it. Content with the status quo. Stuck, that’s what you all are.”
“I’ve got an uncle in Yometheus,” he added after a second. “You know, on Callisto? From what he tells me, people there are on the cutting edge. They’re ready for what’s next; they want the new era. He figures I should run for office there.”
“Sounds like just the right place,” Gambino agreed. “If you would get the door on your way?”
This is Part 4 of 4.